Review: B&W P5 Headphones

With its enviable reputation for creating speakers that push the technological envelope, you might expect a company like B&W to burst on to the headphone market with an all-out effort that aims to rewrite the rulebook. But rather than aiming for the top with a high-end, high-tech model that few could afford, B&W has instead chosen to create a traditional headphone with deluxe packaging that's aimed at the executive travel market.

Because the P5 is intended for portable use, B&W chose to go with a closed-back on-the-ear design instead of the open-back around-the-ear approach usually seen on headphones designed for home use. This makes the folding, compact P5 relatively easy to pack in its classy quilted travel bag, while the closed-back drivers mean that you'll be less likely to disturb your fellow travelers. Portable music players and laptop computers don't normally have an especially powerful amplifier, so B&W endowed the P5 with a low impedance and high sensitivity so these devices could easily drive it.

Two cables are included: a standard one terminated with a 3.5mm stereo mini connector; and an Apple-compliant one with a built-in remote and microphone for use with recent-model iPhones and iPods. I tried the second cable with my BlackBerry, and while it did allow me to switch tracks during music playback, I couldn't get the phone part to work properly. Switching between the included cables involves removing the P5's magnetically attached left ear pad, where the cable attaches via a hidden connector. A [1/4]-in adapter is also included for use with standard audio components.

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